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Financing education is becoming increasingly difficult and refugee children are among the most vulnerable group. According to Mary Joy Pigozzi, Director of Educate A Child, there are reasons why financing is an issue.
“First, many do not understand the real value of education in both economic and social terms. The data showing the criticality of investing in education is available. It is incumbent on all of us who care about the future to find ways to convince those making funding decisions of the importance of education. Furthermore, many people see education as a long-term investment and many, especially politicians, are more concerned with short term payoffs,” Pigozzi told Capital.
Educate A Child is a global program of the Education Above All Foundation that was launched in November 2012 that aims to significantly reduce the number of children worldwide who are denied their right to education. The program is committed to children who are out of school to help provide them with opportunities to learn and as such, it contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4: to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
According to Pigozzi, Educate A Child has striven for a large goal in a short period of time. By scaling up projects that have a proven track record of delivering quality primary education for marginalized and vulnerable children globally it has shown that there can be impactful progress in providing education on a grand scale.
“We are working with partners in around 50 countries, and together we have managed to leverage USD 1.8 billion to make the dream of education a reality for millions of children,” she said.
The Educate A Child program is working to overcome the barriers to education faced by many children all over the world. Ethiopia hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, yet refugee children have not been receiving education due to over stretched capacities.
“There is the risk that children who are forced to flee their homes, and travel to neighboring countries will grow up unable to read or write, starved of opportunity without access to quality education, and that is what my team is working so hard to prevent. We recognize that there are challenges in host countries to provide education for refugees, but this is their obligation,” Pigozzi says.
Regarding whether or not refugees should be integrated with their host communities in order to benefit already existing structures such as schools, Pigozzi says there is no simple answer to that.
“We need to consider both the host community, including its education system, and the needs of refugees. There is no single solution. But we need to recognize that currently the average life of a refugee in a camp is 26 years; according to UNHCR. Education is fundamental to their new lives, wherever those children find themselves; their education is also fundamental to the well-being of the host community,” she underlines.
In Ethiopia, the Educate A Child program has partnered with imagine1day International, a foundation that works to increase education access to more than 60,000 out of school children in the regions of Oromia and Tigray. It also works with Pact, another organization, to implement the Reaching Educational Attainments of Children in the Hinterlands (REACH) project. REACH is a one-year initiative that uses flexible and innovative models to expand opportunities to the most marginalized and hardest to reach children and families and help them access and complete education in Ethiopia.